Estate Planning & Estate Settlement Tools and Process
The Estate
Includes a person's belongings, physical and intangible assets, real estate, investments, collectibles, and furnishings. Basically, all that is owned by someone at the time of their passing.
Estate Planning
Plans for both incapacity and death. Addresses who becomes responsible for caring for another should a person become unable or unwilling to manage their health and financial decisions. Also refers to how assets will be transferred to beneficiaries when one passes away.
Last Will & Testament
Applies at death of will creator. Directs disposition of assets not owned in trust or otherwise distributed by way of beneficiary designation (such as retirement accounts, annuities, and life insurance). Responsible party to administer - "Executor" or "Personal Representative".
Revocable Living Trust
Applies only to assets held/titled in the name of the trust and during life of trust creator. Addresses who is responsible for managing the trust assets and what happens to the trust assets when the trust creator passes. Responsible party to administer - "Trustee" and "Successor Trustee".
Powers of Attorney
Two general types: financial and health. Applies when POA creator is no longer desiring, or able, to manage their own financial or health care decisions. Responsible party to administer - "Agent".
Estate Settlement
The legal process that takes place after someone dies. Basically, the responsibilities of estate settlement include preserving the assets while resolving the financial affairs of the deceased for the ultimate distribution to the estate beneficiaries.
The legal process through which a court oversees the estate settlement process and ultimately determines how a deceased person's estate is to be distributed.<br /> Retirement accounts, annuities and life insurance avoid probate with proper beneficiary designations. Assets held in trust also avoid probate.
Legacy Trust
A type of trust that is established upon the passing of the trust creator and funded with the trust creator’s estate assets. Stipulates how the trust assets are to be used/disbursed for the benefit of others and involves three parties. The trust creator, the beneficiary, and the trustee.

Don’t know what all the legal jargon means? Here is a quick guide to definitions.


Someone named in a legal document to inherit money or other property. Wills, trusts, and insurance policies commonly name beneficiaries; beneficiaries can also be named for “payable-on-death” accounts.


To leave property at one’s death; another word for “give.”


A gift of an item of personal property (that’s anything but real estate) made at death.


The person named in a will, and appointed by the probate court after the will-maker’s death, to wind up the affairs of a deceased person. In some states, executors are called “personal representatives.”

Gift and Estate Tax:

A tax imposed on very large transfers of property (during life or at death) by the federal government. Some states have their own estate taxes as well.


Someone who inherits property under state law if there’s no valid will.


Direct descendants, including children, grandchildren, and so on. A spouse, brothers, sisters, parents, and other relatives are not issue.

Personal Property:

All movable property other than land and buildings.

Personal Representative:

Another name for the executor or administrator of an estate. Some states use this term (often abbreviated “PR”) instead of executor; some states use either.

Per Capita:

A way of dividing property among the descendants of a deceased heir beneficiary.

Real Property:

Real estate—that is, land and things permanently attached to it, such as houses.

Residue or Residuary Estate:

All property subject to a will that isn’t given away specifically in the will. Often, a will leaves certain valuable items to named beneficiaries and then “the rest and residue of my estate” to another beneficiary.

Revocable Trust:

A trust that the settlor can revoke at any time during his or her lifetime.

Right of Representation:

A way of dividing property among the descendants of a deceased heir or beneficiary. The general idea is that the children of a deceased beneficiary inherit that person’s share—for example, if a father leaves property to his daughter, and at his death the daughter has already died, leaving two grandchildren, the grandchildren would take their mother’s share.


Someone who creates a trust.

Successor Trustee:

Someone who takes over as trustee of a trust if the original trustee can no longer serve.


An act by which a person determines the disposition of his or her property after death.


Someone who has legal authority over the assets in a trust.